The 2013-14 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League regular season was sort of a tale of two seasons for the Nanaimo Buccaneers.
The Bucs were unbeatable in the fall, dominant in their division. Come the winter, they hit a slide from which they never fully recovered.
So it suits them just fine that the regular season is done with, and playoffs are here.
The Bucs face the Campbell River Storm in the first round, starting Wednesday (Feb. 19) up Island.
“That’s what everybody’s been looking forward to for the whole year, is playoffs, and it’s exciting…” said Will McNamara, Buccaneers forward. “Everybody’s prepared and focused and gets pumped up so everybody steps their game up because they don’t want the season to end.”
The Bucs had a chance, over the final few games of the regular season, to determine their playoff opponent, but weren’t able to come up with enough wins to avoid the tough Storm.
Campbell River won the season series with five wins compared to four for Nanaimo and one tie, but the Storm took the last three decisions.
“We’ve got a tough battle ahead of us, but we’re a good team and we know that if we play our game that we can beat them,” McNamara said.
Glen Smith, general manager and an assistant coach of the Bucs, said recent losses to the Storm might have gotten in his team’s head.
“It’s our job as a coaching staff to try to help them get through that and realize that we have beaten these teams and we can beat them,” Smith said. “It’s just a matter of believing and working hard and winning every individual battle. If we win all the little battles, we win the game.”
He said the Bucs have shown some improvement in recent weeks since bringing in some new players including forward Garrett Brandsma and goaltender Jackson Jane in the new year.
“You always want to see things happen quicker than what they do,” Smith said.
Still, he said he’s seen many times coaching hockey, a team raise its game to playoff intensity.
“You can peak at any time and we’re hoping that’s real soon here,” he said.
GAME ON … The Nanaimo Buccaneers play the Campbell River Storm in the first round of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs. Home games alternate, starting Wednesday (Feb. 19) up Island. The Bucs host Game 2 Thursday at 7:15 p.m. at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.